Skip to main content

Full text of "The life history of Charaxes vansoni"

See other formats

\jP Biodiversity 

The Entomologist's record and journal of variation. 


V 91 1979: 

Page(s): Text, Text, Page 177, Page 178, Text, Text, Page 179, Page 180, Page 181, Page 

182, Text, Foldout, Text, Text, Page 183, Page 184 

Contributed by: Smithsonian Institution Libraries 
Sponsored by: Smithsonian 

Generated 20 June 201 1 2:51 AM 

This page intentionally left blank. 



History of some recently described Charaxes with the 
description and life history of Charaxes vansoni van 

Someren (Lepidoptera; Nymphalidae) 

by S. F. Henning * 


The evidence which led to van Someren (1975) establish- 
ing the three species Charaxes phaeus Hew., Ch. brainei van 
Son and Ch, vansoni van Som. is herein presented. The com- 
plete description, life history, habits, habitat and distribution 
is given of the latter species. A key is provided for the identi- 
fication of these morphologically similar species. 


Van Someren (1975) in an additional note at the end of 
his Revisional Notes of African Charaxes, Part X, raised to 
species status several taxa which were previously considered 
subspecies or forms. He was unable to include the evidence 
which led to the establishment of these species because the 
manuscript had already been submitted to the publishers. He 
requested, however, that on completion of the study the 
relevant evidence should be published, which is the object of 

the present paper. 


In 1972 an attempt was made to solve the intrigumg 
problem of the uneven distribution of the female forms of the 
species then known as Charaxes viola phaeus Hew. in the 
Transvaal. Large series of both the southern and northern 
populations were examined and a number of specimens were 
bred. Enough evidence was obtained with regard to the 
differences in the morphology and the early stages to prove 
that the 5 form vansoni was actually a species in its own right. 

It was found that phaeus bred on Acacia nigrescens Oliv. 
and vansoni on Peltophorum africanum Sond. Neither species 
would accept the foodplant of the other. The larvae were 
morphologically quite distinct and the headshields were struc- 
turally different. Slight constant morphological difference were 
found in the males and the aedeagi were markedly different. 

It was further concluded that phaeus also warranted full 
species status as, morphologically, it differs greatly from C/z. 
viola Butler and on examination of the genitalia and the life 
histories of both species this was confirmed. The larvae of 
phaeus and viola were quite distinct. 

Morphologically C/i, vansoni is similar to Ch. brainei 

from South West Africa, but a 

of the male 


genitalia showed marked differences. The aedagus of vansoni 
is distinct in having a large ventrally-projecting hook. In 

1 Lawrence Street, Florida Park, Florida 1710, South Africa. 


Charaxes vansoni van Someren ^.1. Upperside, 5. Underside. 
Charaxes brainei van Son 5 • 2. Upperside. 6, Underside. 
Charaxes phaeus Hewitson 5. 3. Upperside. 7. Underside. 
Charaxes fionae Henning $ — paratype. 4, Upperside. 8. Underside 




brainei the large hook is present but it projects dorsally and 
the aedeagus is rather differently shaped. The differences 
between vansoni and brainei are great enough to consider 
them to be separate species. They possibly occur sympatrically 
in the Okavango Swamp area in Botswana but more collecting 
is required to determine their exact distribution. 

The differences in morphology and 



brainei and viola were such that it was decided that they, too, 
were best considered separate species. 

Acting on the above information, van Someren (1975) 
raised Charaxes phaeus, Ch. vansoni and Ch. brainei to specific 
level. The above study also led to the discovery of Charaxes 
fionae Henning which is a species closely allied to Ch. phaeus. 

1. Underside reddish -brown, upper tail on 

hindwing longer than lower one 

- Underside grey or pale brown, lower tail 
on hindwing longer than upper ... 

2. Forewing upperside: subapical spots 
white or orange; aedeagus with irregular 
small teeth 

- Forewing upperside: subapical spots blue 
or green; aedeagus with large hook 

3. Hindwing underside, pale coppery-brown 
with a silvery discal sheen only at costa, 

Ch. fionae 


Ch. phaeus 


or absent; aedeagus with 



* m 

Ch. vansoni 

- Hindwing underside, grey with silvery 
discal sheen from costa to inner margin; 
aedeagus with large dorsal hook 

1. Upperside with discal band 

- Upperside without discal band 

Ch. brainei 




discal bar broad, 

underside ground colour pale coppery- 

Ch. vansoni 

Upperside hindwing discal bar 
underside sround colour 


vWth a 

slight violaceous tinge 
3. Underside reddish-brown 
- Underside grey or pinkish-grey 

• « * 

• • 

• * ■ 

« * 

Ch. brainei 
Ch. fionae 
Ch. phaeus 


1. Body dull olive-green with fine creamy- 
yellow oblique lateral lines and two small 
creamy-yellow dorsal spots on each seg- 
ment except the last 

- Body green without creamy-yellow obli- 
que lines or dorsal spots 

Ch. phaeus 



Charaxes vansoni van Someren 2.1. Upperside. 5. Underside. 
Charaxes brainei van Son 5 . 2. Upperside. 6. Underside. 
Charaxes phaeus Hewitson 2 . 3. Upperside. 7. Underside. 
Charaxes fionae Henning 2 — paratype. 4. Upperside. 8. Underside. 








^ r *^ - '% 


Aedeagi of Charaxes: 

a. Charaxes viola kirki Butler. 

c. Charaxes fionae Henning. 


b. Charaxes phaeus Hewitson 
d. Charaxes brainei van Son. 

Charaxes vansoni van Someren. f. Charaxes howarthi Minig. 


Ch. vansoni 

2. Intersegmental membrane yellowish be- 
tween first six segments -,, •.• 

- Intersegmental membrane not yellowish 
between first six segments 3 

3. Body green with narrow somite bars ... Ch, viola 


- Body green with broad somite bars ... Ch. fionae 

Charaxes vansoni van Someren 
Charaxes viola phaeus $ f. vansoni, van Someren & Jack- 
son, 1957: 43. 

Charaxes viola phaeus ? f. vansoni, van Someren & Jack- 
son; van Someren, 1969: 137. 

Charaxes vansoni van Someren, 1975: 107. 

DIAGNOSIS: Male, Upper side: Velvety black with basal 
bluish lustre. Two blue subapical spots. Hindwing margin 
orange-red bordered with blue or greenish above upper tail, 
then olive to anal-angle. Postdiscal wavy green line faint. 
Lower tail longer and larger than upper. Underside: Fore- 
wing ground colour grey-brown. Black markings similar to 
those of Ch. phaeus. Hindwing ground colour coppery-brown 
with silvery satin sheen, extending from base across costa and 
cell. The silver sheen never extends discally down to the inner- 
margin as in phaeus. 

Female, Upperside: Ground colour brownish-black. White 
discal and postdiscal spots well apart except that the spots in 
lb may touch; anterior half of discal bar and postdiscal spots 
may be orange. Hindwing discal white band extends from costa, 
where it is widest, then tapering towards inner fold and there 
represented by a pale mark, the lower half of the band shaded 
with blue or orange, submarginal marks clear, lilac or bluish 
with white centres. Upper tail longer and larger than lower. 
Underside: Basal area of forewing greyish, shading to brownish 
towards the outer border, discal band creamy to ochre. Hind- 
wing marks obscured, discal pale band slightly indicated at 
costal end. The whole underside with a satiny glaze. 


Forewing length 29.5 — 32.3mm; antenna-wing ratio: 0.42. 

Head: Fronto-clypeal region thickly covered with dark 

grey hairs; epicranial region covered with black hairs. There 
is a patch of white scales anterior and posterior to each 
antennal base. Compound eye is ringed posteriorly with white 
scales. Labial palps are dorso-laterally black, ventro-laterally 
pinkish-grey. Antennae are black, proboscus ochre. Thorax: 
Black covered with greenish-black hairs and scales dorsally, 
pinkish-grey ventrally and laterally. Legs: Femur dorsally 
black with bluish-white spots, otherwise legs pinkish-grey. 
Abdomen: Greenish-black dorsally and laterally, pinkish-grey 
ventrally. Wings: Upperside: Forewing shape falcate. Ground 

colour velvety black with basal bluish lustre. Two blue or 
bluish subapical spots; midway between these and the cell are 
two more blue spots, the upper being larger than the lower 
which is often faint; at the distal end of the cell is another 

180 entomologist's record I/VII-VIII/79 

small, faint blue spot. Margin bluish or greenish, merging into 
the ground colour. It is broken by black along the veins; width 
2mm, broader at apex. Faint blue submarginal spots may be 
present. Hindwing: Ground colour blue-black with very fine 
greenish-black hairs basally extending along the upper edge 
of the anal fold to the tornus. Anal fold dark grey to greyish. 
Margin in 4 to 6 orange-red bordered with blue or greenish- 
blue with a very small faint bluish mark in 7. Margin is broken 
by black along the veins. Two tails on veins 2 and 4. The tail 
on vein 2 is 3.7 — 4.7mm long, and on vein 4 is 4.0 — 5.6mm. 
The lower is always broader and slightly longer than the upper. 
Margin between tails greenish-ochre and extending into the 
tails. Tornus protruding, margin olive with two submarginal 
blue spots thinly lined with white proximally. The other sub- 
marginal blue spots are smaller, usually centred with white. 
Faint postdiscal line from tornus to 6. 

Underside: Forewing ground colour grey-brown with 
silvery satin sheen extending over entire forewing except for 
basal, discal and submarginal areas. The black discal striae 
begin at the costa below the subapex, becoming wider pos- 
teriorly until they form a black patch surrounded by light blue 
scahng in lb. Two submarginal black patches appear in lb. 
Basal, sub-basal median and submedian black lines distinct. 
Hindwing: Ground colour pale coppery-brown with a silver 
satin sheen extending from base across the costa and cell. 
Anal fold greyish with slight silvery sheen. Postdiscal line of 
olive and red lunules better developed towards inner margin. 
Margin above tails red to orange red, olive or greenish below 

g into the tails. Submarginal line of blue and 
white spots from tornus to 7 or 8; submarginal area with 
pinkish sheen. 


Forewing length 33.3 — 37.5mm; antenna-wing ratio: 0.36. 

Head: Fronto-clypeal and epicranial region thickly covered 
with dark brownish-grey hairs. There is a patch of white scales 
anterior and posterior to each antennal base. Compound eye is 
ringed posteriorly with white scales. Labial palpi are dorso- 
laterally greyish-black, ventro-laterally pinkish-white. Antennae 

are black, proboscus ochre. Thorax: Black covered with hairs 
and scales, dark greenish-grey dorsally, ventrally and laterally 

-grey. Legs: Femur dorsally black with bluish-white 
spots, otherwise legs pinkish-grey. Abdomen: Dark grey 
becoming lighter ventrally. 

Wings: The following is the description of the holotype as 
given by van Someren and Jackson in 1957. "Upper side: Fore- 
wing ground colour black with a strong greenish suffusion 
basally; a bluish-white spot often present in the cell; a small 
one (often doubled) just beyond the cell: discal bar white or 
bluish-white, commencing with a subcostal spot in 5 — 6, then 
sub-basal in 3, widening to middle of la. A post-discal series of 
white spots from 2 — 7. Hindwing discal bar strongly bluish, or 
at least edged distally with blue, extends from costa to inner 



fold, but does not cross it except just above anal angle. A sub- 
marginal series of lunulate blue or bluish white spots distally 
edged with black; margin olive to upper tail, then red. 

Underside: Forewing ground colour as in the male, but white 
marks show through; hindwing discal bar less strongly in- 

There is some variation among the females of this species 
and three forms are easily distinguishable. At the one extreme 
there is the female corresponding to the holotype, in which the 
discal bar is white or bluish, while at the other extreme there 
is a variation in which the discal bar is orange and white, while 
the third is an intermediate between the two in which the 
orange markings are reduced to a pale yellow-ochre colour. 
All three variations were bred from ova laid by a single female 
collected at Waterpoor in the Transvaal. The two extremes are 
scarceir than the intermediate. 

Variation 1: This is the form described as the holotype, 
with a white or bluish-white discal bar. 

Variation 2: Upperside: Forewing, ground colour black 
with a strong greenish suffusion basally, distal margin reddish- 
brown, widest at apex and tapering towards tornus. Discal bar 
orange in 2 — 6, white in la and lb, widest in la and narrow- 
ing anteriorly. Postdiscal series of orange spots from 2 — 7. 

Hindwing: discal bar extends from costa to inner margin, 
white suffused with orange in lb — 4; distally white, suffused 
with blue in 5 — 8. Underside: Forewing as in holotype, but 
orange as well as white shows through. Distal margin red- 
brown as on upperside. Hindwing as in holotype. Tail on vein 
4 is 6.2 — 8.0mm and on vein 2 is 4.9 — 6.9mm. 

Variation 3: This variation appears to be an intermediate 
between the other two. The orange markings on the forewing 
upperside of Variation 2 are reduced to a pale yellow-ochre 
colour and the hindwing discal bar has no orange at all. In 
some specimens the hindwing discal bar can be completely 
suffused with pale blue scales. 

cT GENITALIA: Uncus longer than tegumen, a single 
rounded lobe with a small apical projection and several hairs; 
gnathos about the same length as the uncus, expanded distally; 
valva produced into an apical process, ventral edge folded in- 
wards, ridge turns ventrally below apical process where it runs 
into a long hook; furca short, broad, distally expanded convex 
plate, apically compressed, forming a short sharp hook. Ratio 
of valva to aedeagus, about 0.6; ratio of proximal to distal 
portions of aedeagus, about 0.88; the aedeagus has a large 
toothed, ventrally-protruding hook which is of diagnostic value; 
distal end is compressed. Vinculum narrow. 

? HOLOTYPE: Transvall, Pretoria, 29.IV. 1948, C. R. S. 
van Son, in Transvaal Museum, Pretoria. 

9 PARATYPE: Transvaal, Pretoria, 22.IV. 1948, C. R. S. 

van Son, in British Museum (N.H.), London. 

1 82 entomologist's record 1/ VII-VIII/79 

Life History 

Foodplant: Peltophorum africanum Send, (Leguminosae). 

EARLY STAGES: Larvae and ova of this species can be 
found on both saplings and larger trees. With some experience 
one can soon differentiate between promising and unlikely 
vegetation types. On small saplings the larvae tend to hide 
themselves amongst the vegetation, but on larger trees they 
prefer odd sprays on the outside of the main mass of vegeta- 
tion. During the past season Bampton has found several larvae 
while motoring through the Transvaal, and spotting a likely 
looking tree on the side of the road. Larvae can be found all 
the year round, but one of the best months is May. 

Egg: Oval, 1.2mm in diameter, flattened at the base with 
a slightly fluted dorsal depression. It is pale green when first 
laid and develops a brown ring around the depression within 
48 hours of being laid if fertile. The egg hatches from 5 to 
14 days. The eggs are laid singly on the upper surface of the 
leaves of the foodplant. At eclosion the larva eats the entire 
egg shell. 

LARVA: ht instar: Total length at eclosion about 4mm. 
Body ochre, becoming immaculate green once it starts to feed. 
Headshield is black, oval, diameter 0.7mm; dorsal horns 0.8mm 
long and curved inwards at the tips; lateral horns 0.4mm long 
and straight. Length attained by the larva was about 6mm. 
Duration of instar is normally 1 — 2 weeks. 

2nd instar: Body immaculate green. Headshield is pale 
bro\vn, becoming sHghtly green in the ventral half in some 
specimens. Diameter of facial disc 1.5mm; dorsal horns L6 — 
1.9mm long and lateral horns 0.8mm long. Duration of instar 
normally from 2 — 3 weeks. Length attained by the larva was 
about 1 1mm. 

3rd instar: The body is green, developing yellowish-white 
somite bars on the sixth and eighth segments. The bar on the 
sixth segment is well developed while that on the eighth is 
faint. The headshield diameter is 2mm; it is green with a broad 
yellow band around the lower margin, ventral side of 
lateral horns and laterally on the dorsal horns. There are two 
laterally situated black patches on either side of the head near 
the lower angle. The dorsal horns 2 — 2.5mm long and the 
lateral horns 1 — L5mm long: the former are curved inwardly 
at the tips; the horns are green, occasionally tipped with 
brown. Length attained by larva is about 15mm. Duration of 
instar normally from 2 — 3 weeks. 

4th instar: Develops third somite bar on the tenth segment. 
All three bars are now well developed. The intersegmental 
membranes anteriorly are yellowish. The headshield is similar 
to that of the third instar, diameter is 3mm, dorsal horns 4 mm 
and lateral horns 2mm. Length attained by larva is about 
23mm. Duration of instar is normally 2 — 3 weeks 

5th instar: Body green, with three well developed somite 
bars on segments six, eight, and ten. Intersegmental membrane 
is yellowish between the first six segments and to a lesser 






Vic to/ i a \ 

L. Rudolf 


o N Q i f o b i 



M p Q nd Q 





Dor E; 

Sa loG 








^^4 ^^c/ronga 

Porto Amella_| 

Cashi ba 

on key Boy 






f^popo R 

p , hO 





Delagoo Bay 




• Charaxes fionae 






extent between the remaining segments. Larval markings are 

to those found in Ch. ethalion Bsdv. Some larvae, 
especially in the dry months, have the yellow markings suffused 
with pinkish-orange. The colour of the headshield is similar 
to that of the previous two instars, diameter is 4,5mm, dorsal 
horns 5 — 6mm, lateral horns 3.5 — 4.0mm. In some speci- 

mens the headshield is laterally almost conipletely yellow. 
Lateral horns may be yellow with only a thin green 
stripe; the dorsal horns are heavily marked with yellow later- 
ally and are occasionally tipped with brown. The lateral horns 
on some specimens are nearly as long as the dorsal horns, 
sets of horns are extremely long and stout compared with 
those of phaeus. The cast headshields are much thinner and 
less intensely marked than those of phaeus. They have a 
"washed out" appearance. Length attained before pupation 
is nearly 40mm. Duration of instar is normally 2 — 4 weeks. 

The above information was obtained during the breeding 
of about 80 imagines of vansoni and about 40 other larvae 
which were parasitized or died from fungal and virus diseases. 

Pupa: Green, margin of wing-case may have a yellow 
stripe. It is 16 — 20mm long. The pupal stage lasts about three 


Habits of Adult 

Charaxes vansoni is an inhabitant of dry bushveld country. 
The habits are very much like those of C/z. phaeus in that the 
males arrive at the hilltops and establish territories from which 
they chase intruders of the same or other species. The females 
are rarely seen as they spend the majority of their time flying 
at random through the bush looking for suitable foodplants on 
which to lay their eggs. 

The butterfly is rarely seen in numbers at sucking-trees, 
unlike the females of phaeus. My brother G. A. Henning once 
captured 15 males and females at a sucking-tree at Rashoop 
near Brits; otherwise only the odd specimen has been caught 

They also do not come readily to traps and the majority 
of specimens obtained have resulted from breeding the species. 


The species is distributed from Zululand and the eastern 
Transvaal westwards to eastern Botwana, and northwards into 


Transvaal: Barberton; Dendron; Waterpoort; Saltpan, 
Zoutpansberg; Rashoop near Brits; Pretoria; Rustenburg; 

Botswana: Gaberone; Malapye. 

Rhodesia: Salisbury; Bulawayo; Lake Kyle. 

FLIGHT PERIOD: The species flies throughout the year. 

March, April and May 



encouragement throughout the preparation of this paper; to 

184 entomologist's record I/VII-VIII/79 

Mr, I, Bampton for the provision of much information and 
material; to the following for information and specimens: 

Messrs. J. Braine, R. L Vane-Wright, Dr. L. Vari; to Mrs. F. 
L Martin for typing the manuscript; and to Mr. C. G. C. 
Dickson and Dr. L. Vari for reading the manuscript and for 
many useful suggestions. 


Actual forewing length of specimen 1, Charaxes vansoni 
cf, in Plate V is 28mm from the middle of the thorax to the 
apex of the wing. Actual forewing length of specimen 1, 
Charaxes vansoni 9, in Plate VI is 32mm from the middle of 
the thorax to the apex of the wing. 


Henning, G. A., 1977. Observations on the Early Stages of African 

Charaxes with notes on Life Histories (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). 

Ann. Transv. Mus. 30: 219-230. 
Henning, S. F., 1977. Description and Biology of a new species of 

Charaxes (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae) from Central Africa. Ibidem 

30: 231-238. 
Vane- Wright, R. I., 1976. The Type-material of the nominal species 

Charaxes vansoni van Someren (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Ibidem 

30: 105-107. 
Van Someren, V. G. L., 1969. Revisional Notes on African Charaxes 

(Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Part V. Bull, Br. Mus. Nat. Hist. 

(Ent.) 23: 75-166. 
, 1975. Revisional Notes on African Charaxes 

(Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Part X. Ibidem 32: 67-135. 
Van Someren, V. G. L. and Jackson, T. H. E., 1957. The Charaxes 

etheocles-ethalion complex (Lepidoptera: Nymphalidae). Supple- 
ment No. 1. Ann. Transv. Mus. 23: 41-58. 
Van Son, G., 1966. A new subspecies of Charaxes viola Butler from 

South-West Africa. Novos Taxa ent, 49: 3-7. 

Scarce Prominent (Odontosia carmelita Esp.): Second 
ONLY Record for the Eastbourne District. — This rather 
local insect was taken for the first time since 1951, when Mr. 
S. Salvage recorded the species in the Transactions of the 
Eastbourne Natural History Society, a singleton taken on the 
30th April in Abbot's Wood. 

The present record is for a freshly emerged male which 
arrived at light on the 11th May 1979 in the very same locality 
whilst I was collecting in the company of Mr. M. Parsons. — 

M. Hadley, 7 Beverington Close, Eastbourne, Sussex B21 2SB. 

Pupation Date of Cosmorhoe ocellata L. ^ One of 
the pleasures of rearing common and familiar species is the 
rediscovery of their lesser known characteristics and in this 
most species can spring surprises. A large brood of C ocellata 
I reared from the egg in 1977 spun up in August and remained 
as unchanged larvae right through the winter. I kept examining 
cocoons until as late as April when suddenly all pupated. It 
is well known that the species overwinters as a larva in its 
pupal cocoon but the late date of pupation is not so widely 
known. — G. M. Haggett.